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Biden administration looks to let more immigrant workers temporarily into the U.S.

The executive branch said it will request an immediate 20,000 increase in H-2B visas, a first for this time of year.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Biden administration said Monday that it will take the unprecedented step of making 20,000 more temporary work permits available near-term to ease the labor shortage hamstringing non-agricultural businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

The joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) would make 20,000 additional H-2B visas available to immigrants who want to work within the United States for a relatively short stretch.

The work permits are frequently used by seasonal enterprises to staff up for their peak seasons. Although adjustments in the number issued are common, increases usually come later in the year, when employers are staffing up for the summer. The visas to be issued this time around are intended for hiring immigrants on or before March 31.

The DHS said this is the first time the department has requested an increase during the first half of the federal fiscal year, which extends from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

The addition of 20,000 candidates to the national labor pool is unlikely to reverse the severe shortage of job candidates that has stymied employers in their rebound from the pandemic. The hospitality industry alone is down about 1.3 million workers, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the move by DHS and DOL were nonetheless welcomed as a help.

“Filling open jobs is the hotel industry’s top priority, and the H-2B visa program helps hotels and other industries with strong seasonal business and workforce needs to do just that,” Chip Rogers, CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said in a statement. “While our members always look first to the U.S. workforce to fill critical job functions during peak seasons, the H-2B program serves as an important and necessary tool for these small businesses to bridge the employment gap.”

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